Get shutters, siding or plywood in place on windows. If you haven't sunk sockets, nail wood in with masonry nails. The cosmetic damage will be the least of your worries.
If you're not covering your windows, DON'T tape them. Tape will not stop windows from breaking. *
Move vehicles into garages if possible; otherwise park them away from trees. Try to move them close to houses to lessen damage from flying debris.
Move grills and patio furniture into the house or garage.
Remove a 6-foot panel on each side of patio screens to let the wind pass through. Simply pull out the tubing.
If you remove your roof antenna, unplug it from the set first.
Remove roof turbines and cap holes.
Secure anything inside your home that can be thrown around. Tape or tie cabinets. Remove items from counter and table tops. Close closet doors.
If you have natural gas, utility officials say you should leave it on so you can cook after the storm. Safety valves on most water, pool and spa heaters will shut off the gas supply if winds blow out the pilot light. **
Fill your bathtub and water bottles.
Secure and brace external doors, especially double doors.
Move as many valuables as possible off the floor to limit flooding damage. Move furniture away from windows or cover it with plastic.
Fill out an inventory list to use later for insurance claims.
Move your TV, battery-operated radio, flashlights and food to the room where you're going to spend the storm/hurricane.
Turn off all but one or two lights. If the power fails, you don't want to cause a surge when it is restored.
In the last hours, stay inside. Being on the roads will interfere with people fleeing to emergency shelters. And conditions will deteriorate rapidly.
[* True, but I would tape them to keep the glass from flying about if it breaks - shirley]
[** Know where AND HOW to shut off your gas. If you don't have gas but your neighbor does, find out where their shut off is located. You may be home and they might not when an emergency occurs.]
A ROOF OVERHEAD
CHECK YOUR ROOF
What kind of roof do you have? Homes with gabled roofs are more likely to suffer hurricane damage than homes with hip roofs because winds push into the flat ends of gabled roofs but pass over the steep pitch of hip roofs. If your house has a gabled roof, check in your attic for diagonal 2-by-4s between the gable end and the roofing trusses. Gable-end bracing in an 'X' pattern makes the roof stronger. You should also have truss bracing running the length of the roof. Install it if you don't have it.
CHECK YOUR GARAGE DOOR
Two-car garage doors can cause problems during hurricanes. They are so large they can wobble in high winds and pull out of their tracks or collapse. Horizontal braces make garage doors stronger. You may want to have a garage door expert check your door for wind strength.
CHECK THE NAILS AND THE HURRICANE STRAPS ON YOUR ROOF
Hurricane straps help hold the roof to the walls. In the attic, inspect forstraps of galvanized metal. Go in the attic and see how well the roof sheathing, often plywood, is attached. If most of the large nails or staples coming through the sheathing have missed the trusses, your roof sheathing is improperly installed. This was a big problem during Hurricane Andrew.
CHECK YOUR DOUBLE-ENTRY DOORS
Most double doors have a fixed door. Check to see how the fixed door is secured at the top and bottom. The bolts that secure most doors are not strong enough. Some door manufacturers provide reinforcing bolt kits that cost $10 to $50.
GET AN EXPERT OPINION
You can't peel back your roof or remove the walls to see how your house was built. The safest option is to hire someone to inspect it for you.
HIRE A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, CONTRACTOR OR ROOFER.
Ask the person to look not only at the roof but also the concrete block construction - are the blocks reinforced properly with vertical rods? - and see that the foundation, walls and roof are properly connected to each other.
CHECK THE REST OF THE HOUSE
Buy caps for your roof turbines so when the storm threatens you can remove the turbine and cap the hole. Winds of more than 100 mph will pull turbines off, leaving a hole for rain and wind to enter your attic. Buy caps for any removable vent pipe that protrudes from the roof. Do a careful walk-through around your property for anything that can be secured now and do so. Look for loose rain gutters and shutters. Tie down sheds, swing sets and other large items.
COMMON ROOF AND WALL DEFECTS FOUND AFTER HURRICANE ANDREW
Nails used to hold plywood to roof trusses were too far apart.
Support for gable end trusses were too weak.
Steel reinforcement rods for walls were nonexistent or insufficient.
Hurricane straps meant to hold roofs, walls and floors together were insufficient or gone.
Roofs were properly secured to the walls with hurricane straps, but plywood was not properly nailed down. A standard 4-by-8-foot sheet should have about 38 nails.
[Suggestion: Retain all inspection and certification paperwork as proof for an insurance claim. - shirley]